Ohio train derailment: Chemical plume in Ohio River is ‘completely dissipated,’ governor says

Ohio train derailment: Chemical plume in Ohio River is ‘completely dissipated,’ governor says
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 10:40 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 12:18 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that a chemical plume in the Ohio River from a train derailment in East Palestine has “completely dissipated,” according to the latest testing.

“We do believe that there’s no reason to be concerned about water from the Ohio River and there’s never really been a reason to be concerned,” he said during a news conference.

Still, out of an abundance of caution, Greater Cincinnati Water Works said Friday they will close Cincinnati water intake and temporarily switch to water reserves before the plume arrives late Saturday or early Sunday.

DeWine stressed they are relying on the very agencies that monitor the Ohio River every single day - and they are saying the water “is OK.”

“The Ohio River is very well monitored. It’s monitored 365 days a year. What started out with the plume could not be seen, I am told, but they could tell there was a little rise in the numbers, not in a dangerous area at all when this started when it moved downstream. Now I am told they cannot find it at all.”

Thirty-eight rail cars on an eastbound general merchandise freight train derailed on the Norfolk Southern Railroad just before 9 p.m. on Feb. 3, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

As a result, a fire ensued which damaged an additional 12 cars.

There were 20 total hazardous material cars in the train consist—11 of which derailed. Here’s a list of the chemicals on board, including cancer-causing vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, which can cause breathing difficulties in cases of overexposure, according to the NTSB and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The plume of the spilled chemicals killed 3,500 fish in nearby streams, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and then went into the Ohio River.

No vinyl chloride has been detected in the Ohio River, according to the Ohio EPA, but butyl acrylate was.

Norfolk Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern Corp. face several lawsuits, in the meantime.

Norfolk Southern is the same company working to buy Cincinnati’s municipally owned railway for $1.6 billion.

Most of the litigation against the railroad seeks class-action status with more than $5 million in damages, court records show.

In general, the suits have similar claims of negligence and carelessness that allegedly caused the train derailment and subsequent unleashing of toxic chemicals.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also has threatened to sue the railway, according to a letter his office sent them earlier this week.

“The pollution, which continues to contaminate the area around East Palestine, created a nuisance, damage to natural resources and caused environmental harm,” Yost wrote.

One of the lawsuits, filed Wednesday by the national law firm Morgan & Morgan on behalf of plaintiffs Aysia Canterbury and Lisa Sodergen, alleges the train derailment released 1.1 million pounds of the “cancer-causing vinyl chloride” into the air, “more in the course of a week than all industrial emitters combined did” in 2021.

Attorneys for the railroad moved one of the lawsuits from a state court where it was filed earlier this week to the federal court, where the other litigation was filed.

The attorney denies the railway has a liability, court filings show.

“Although Defendants deny that they are legally liable for any of the claims or theories of recovery as alleged in the Complaint and further deny that Plaintiffs, or any members of the putative class, are legally entitled to any monetary or equitable relief as alleged in the Complaint, the amount in controversy here satisfies the jurisdictional threshold,” wrote one of Norfolk Southern’s attorneys, Scott Clements.

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